The need for silence

Last week I wrote about crazy startup schedules and what is, in my view, their main driver: fear. Since it's Sunday, I thought I'd introduce the antidote: silence.

Silence, and in particular sitting in silence for habitual periods every day, has enormous benefits. For one, silence is the only tool that is able to create discernment in a very loud and very fast world. Secondly, it throws you back on your core - mind, spirit, soul - and asks the fundamental question of who you really are. Thirdly, if you listen in silence long enough, this core will find its voice that you can take back to the world with you. And it lets you gaze at what is in wonder.

For the thinking person, there is no way around giving at least tentative answers to the big, unbearable questions demanded by our existence. The path starts out easy - there are immediate and recognizable benefits from sitting. But it becomes steeper as you go, until you get to that sheer cliff or that abyss and you start to realize that you have to climb or jump and then that it isn't really a mountain and there isn't a path and there isn't an end to this and let me just go back to check Facebook please and thank you. The dark night of the soul awaits. 

All great wisdom traditions advocate sitting in silence: Buddhism with meditation, Christianity with contemplation and centering prayer, Sufi Islam with muraqabah, Judaism with hitbonenut, and many others. You may be more attracted by something more seemingly secular, like using Headspace or learning Westernized Zen. Just note that while the latter two do change consciousness, the interpretation of what has changed is pretty much left entirely up to you. Which seems a pity given that so many have come before us and have thought long and hard about things. 

Neuroscience has made some startling discoveries about what meditation or contemplation do to our brain, in particular the anterior cingulate cortex. Recent findings suggest these changes seem more pronounced when intermingled with faith (crucially: what that belief is is not important). 

Do understand that I'm not saying that you need silence so you can improve in order to function well as an executive - I'll leave that to the quantified-self content marketers and neo-liberal self help gurus. You need silence for a life well lived, to be happy, and most importantly to be your authentic self. 

Have a good start to the week.

6 responses
I love the direction your writing is going in - thank you. Curious; what is this voice that you refer to? Is it an image or actual whisper? How do you differentiate between truth and 'ego' (fear/greed/projection)? Can you give examples of insights you have had and how they have impacted your life/way you operate?
Paul, thank you for commenting. Happy that you find value. Your questions get to the core, really. I think there are a few experiences and interpretations that it would be interesting to try and put into words - but it’s a little “Your Mileage May Vary.” It’s such a deeply personal endeavor and even thinking about what I’d write feels pretty vulnerable. Which is good - let’s push the envelope! I’ll devote the next post to it. And maybe a few others. Thank you!
Sounds great. So refreshing to hear you even using words like vulnerability - for too long the 'trickier' emotions have been banned from the start-up/business world yet they are so prevalent for most of us. It's an important conversation but yes absolutely respect the process of gradual 'revelation' and moving slowly into the dialogue. Looking forward to the next post :)
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